Wednesday, June 10, 2009

To all those who have, more will be given

As they were listening to this, he went on to tell a parable, because he was near Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. So he said, ‘A nobleman went to a distant country to get royal power for himself and then return. He summoned ten of his slaves, and gave them ten pounds, and said to them, “Do business with these until I come back.” But the citizens of his country hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, “We do not want this man to rule over us.” When he returned, having received royal power, he ordered these slaves, to whom he had given the money, to be summoned so that he might find out what they had gained by trading. The first came forward and said, “Lord, your pound has made ten more pounds.” He said to him, “Well done, good slave! Because you have been trustworthy in a very small thing, take charge of ten cities.” Then the second came, saying, “Lord, your pound has made five pounds.” He said to him, “And you, rule over five cities.” Then the other came, saying, “Lord, here is your pound. I wrapped it up in a piece of cloth, for I was afraid of you, because you are a harsh man; you take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.” He said to him, “I will judge you by your own words, you wicked slave! You knew, did you, that I was a harsh man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money into the bank? Then when I returned, I could have collected it with interest.” He said to the bystanders, “Take the pound from him and give it to the one who has ten pounds.” (And they said to him, “Lord, he has ten pounds!”) “I tell you, to all those who have, more will be given; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and slaughter them in my presence.” ’

- Luke 19:11-27

As we continue the theme of justice and Judgment from yesterday, Jesus elaborates here on what seems like the "flip side" of the coin of yesterday's teaching on this theme. Yesterday we read the story of Zacchaeus and his conversion and repentance as Jesus' host in Jericho. We were taught through Jesus' actions and words about the restorative nature of justice; it is that which restores us to ourselves and heals us wholly. Today's reading is the opposite side of the coin in the sense that it is addressed to those in whom spiritual gifts have been invested, rather than those in need of deep repentance as was Zacchaeus.

This particular teaching/parable is addressed to those in whom the Lord has invested his gifts of spiritual endowment. Those who are possessed of faith, who have within them this investment through relationship with the Lord, are responsible for cultivating and building those gifts. I see this as a sense in which we are to understand what it is to cultivate the things that "moths and rust cannot destroy" - that is, a lifetime of spiritual growth and understanding; the values that come as the fruits of spiritual endeavor and growth in faith. The fruits intended as the harvest or profit of spiritual practice are myriad, and to each of us is given whatever particular gifts are ours. But we who so are gifted or so endowed, in whom this investment through the Son has been made, are expected to do something with those gifts. They are not possessions which we hold and through which gratify ourselves that we are good people. Judgment expects of us more than that. We are to live them and multiply them; we are to produce profit and harvest of more values, more development and spiritual growth, "life in abundance." Of us, this is what judgment expects. And by extension we must also incorporate this understanding into our own notions of justice. It's not enough that we are "good people." We are here to live our faith; we do not own it like a possession. It is an investment in us. This is the notion with which we must think of the judgment, and of spiritual justice.

Jesus says, "I tell you, to all those who have, more will be given; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away." Here, the notion of justice and Judgment tells us even further what is expected of those of us who hold spiritual investment within ourselves. Not only are we expected to grow within this investment and to produce fruits from it, but if we fail to do so, what we have will be taken away. We are not simply to practice our faith, content that we have the answers and we know what we are about. We are here to gain experience in uncharted territory, to make - each of us - what we will of the spiritual endowment we already have. Be that by increase in faith, kindness, charity, spiritual inspiration to others or a host of fruits too infinite for me to contemplate, each of us who has this thirst for spiritual seeking within ourselves and a love for God is expected to do something with that love. Our faith is not a precious jewel we keep locked up somewhere and charge others money to see or to catch a glimpse of, it's not paraded around once in awhile to impress others with our wealth. On the contrary, we have a job to do. We are expected to work with what we have and to produce a bounty from this investment. This is our part of the judgment; this is how justice sees our responsibility in life.

In a sense, we follow a Lord who rather expects more of those of us for whom this thirst for relationship is great than those more greatly in need of his mercy. We are not let off the hook if we are already in this fold: on the contrary, of those in whom is invested much, much is expected. This is not a teaching of ease but rather a teaching about the responsibility to the kingdom of which we are a part. In Galatians 5:22, Paul says that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. I say we should contemplate what this means in light of the parable above. I believe we should start there, and go on to cultivate what comes of this teaching, and the infinite variety of fruits from there which are possible. We're always in need of our particular spiritual practice, and those who have will be graced with more.

That it may please thee to give to all thy people increase of grace to hear meekly thy Word, and to receive it with pure affection, and to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit

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